Relic Knights - What Is This Game And Why Should I Care? A Review

It has been in the works as you might have been able to tell. I post a lot about Relic Knights and in a short period of time I have got over 8 others in my area playing actively, been to two tournaments, organised a league and set up another tournament which attracts people from all over the UK. Not to mention got hold of all released models for the Doctrine, Cerci and Corsairs as well as painting through the entire Doctrine faction and a wealth of Sci-fi terrain. Why have I done this?

It's simple, this game is just freakin awesome.
Growing up I played a lot of Warhammer 40k and Lord of the Rings miniatures games. I really enjoyed that time of my life, things were simple, you stuck a box together, put them on the table, ran them towards someone and rolled some dice to smack them in the chops. Then you came away, spent more money for more guys to do the same thing but on a bigger scale next week. Then I simply found other hobbies having saturated my war gaming. Gamecube, learning guitar/keyboard and vocals for a band, weight training, long distance running and a fabulous partner-now-come-wife. Time passed.

Me and The Wife Cruising Through Cuba
In the last few years I have got back into card/board gaming with the likes of Android Netrunner, Lord of the Rings LCG, Betrayal at House on the Hill and so on. So this year (2015) I decided to head on down to my local games club Warwickshire Gamers, they play a lot of wargames and quickly got a few intro's in with some of the guys. I snapped up a Malifaux box, started to piece together a Mordheim band and refreshed my hobby supplies of paint, brushes, modelling tools and life was good. Then I got word on a fateful Saturday that the UK Games Expo was happening at the NEC just down the road from me. The wife was at work so I decided I would go check it out. Then disaster struck.

Betty and Lug
Whilst perusing all the great stands and talking to a fair few developers, producers and artists I came across the Ninja Division stand and got speaking to Rory O'Connor who quickly suckered me in to a demo game of Relic Knights, lo and behold I was instantly sold.

I tried to do the whole "I'm cool, I'll walk away from this" tactic but 20 minutes later I was back at the stand speaking to Paul Scott.
Under the guise of "I am totally buying this for the wife" I stood there for what seemed like (and probably was) an hour picking my faction of choice, Cerci was an instant yes, breasts and bikes was an instant sell but what else? I wanted a unique heavy cadre so that really narrowed it down to Doctrine or Corsairs. My Fullmetal Alchemist heart fluttered at the thought of the Doctrine so I went with my gut and opted for the Doctrine battle box too along with Cordelia Clean and Codifier Brahe as he is a show special.

Squall and Kenobo
Job done? Well no I also spent a fortune on other stuff that day but I did get some cool neoprene mats, the Battlesystems kickstarter terrain pack and a free hard back rule book for Relic Knights, awesome! I got home that day and spent the rest of the day assembling my battle boxes. The miniature quality is great, not perfect, but for the price of a battle box which includes softback rules, all tokens, an esper deck, unit cards and models it is the most awesomely priced entry pack to any miniatures game ever!

One of our first games Cerci vs Doctrine
Once together and primed I shifted focus and got to work on the Battlesystems Kickstarter and 6 hours later had it all up, time to find a game... Which victim would I choose? Well seeing as the wife was there I suckered her into a game quoting "it's anime!" "theres fullmetal inspired minis" "theres cute little cyphers" "people do crazy magic powers." She caved and we had a game that evening, it was a blast! We messed up a lot of the rules on that first game but it didn't matter, she won by throwing my Novitiates off the tallest point in the map and was happy for it. This to me is a crucial point as to why this game is great, it has a unique appeal to people who really enjoy anime and particularly women which is not impossible but is still fairly uncommon in a wargame.

Over the coming weeks I got my starter boxes painted, got more games in with the wife and managed to get a game or two at my local club by bringing all my supplies. Then it was announced that Northern Cadre was taking place, the wife was working so I was like "why the hell not?" I travelled up with Ninja Paul Scott and had an absolutely amazing time managing to get three games in on the day. By this point I felt I had enough experience to start pushing the game to others in my area so that's what I started doing, going to new clubs, meeting new people, having some real great times. The most common questions I got were "how does it work?" and "what is it like?"

My completed Doctrine faction

How Does it Work?

Relic Knights starts with your cadre selection, a group of units that come together to form a band or "cadre" this is who you will be playing with during the game. You have a queue of units which determines the order in which they activate, there are no traditional turns or rounds, your queue just continues to cycle and you are in control of your queue so it is down to you in terms of timing your plays. You have a hand of cards which form your available Esper which can be used to pay for abilities on your units, don't have the cards? Then you can't do the ability so timing and resource management are key. You win by scoring more victory points than your opponent, the most effective way of doing this is by completing the randomly drawn scenarios that you get at the start of a game, you can gain VP's by killing opponents units but this is very costly from a resource perspective and gives quite a small output VP wise, all this time your opponent will be furthering their objectives so it is recommended to not take this approach.

Ekhis keeps the Royal Wrecker at bay

What is it Like?

The closest thing I can relate Relic Knights to is Malifaux, you have a hand of cards and it is diceless, you draw scenarios at the start which are much like schemes, you win by getting VP's and the best tactics in Malifaux are not around wiping your opponent off the map. But it is all that and so much more, the setting just works. Being Sci-Fi and anime based models can leap 10 times their height in the air, you can hadouken! your opponent into a wall and suck objectives through a vaccuum. How does it get away with all this? "It's anime" is my favourite line. If you have ever seen any action based anime series you will see what I mean, these things are just achievable in this world and when you think of them taking place in this setting you don't get bogged down with "how did he just jump across that 20 foot gap?"

Black Diamond dropping bombs

Why Should I Care?

And to the main point of the article why does this all matter? Well it does if any of the above ticks your boxes. It is a fun fast game with in-depth tactical strategy and for a version 1.0 it is probably one of the most solid rule sets I have played. Mentioning versions there is an upcoming 2.0 which adds to the universe, clears up some of the wording on rules and adjusts the scenarios to be a little more balanced. The fact that Ninja Division and Soda Pop are putting money into this product is a great sign for the longevity of the product, it has been around now for about 1.5 to 2 years and like any new game is very slow to pick up in the market. Based on my experience of the game though it has what it takes to muscle its way into this cut throat market with an already dedicated player base in the UK which is growing.

I would recommend this game to anyone who is interested in wargames, anime and wants something different.
What are you waiting for? Grab one of the super awesomely priced battle boxes and get going!

Craig McNicholas

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.


  1. A good read and good reasons to get into the game.
    I jumped into it at the kickstarter stage as I had seen the Soda models a few years and considered buying some just to paint. Then the kickstarter happened and it was suddenly a game too! the perfect excuse had arrived.

  2. Really good read. And congrats on that wedding pic. Really good shot.

    1. Cheers pal, thanks for checking it out

  3. Reminds me that I really must try to get the Black Diamond & Cerci Speed Circuit sets that I got out of the Kickstarter assembled & painted at some point.....